Thursday, May 26, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Poland, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, May 27, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Junction of Routes 224 and 170

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, May 27, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the junction of Routes 224 and 170. in Poland, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sports as Metaphor for Life: Let’s hope not!

This week, two prominent men have come out as gay. In most quarters these items are being treated as the nonevents they are, especially in the case of CNN anchor Don Lemon. Unfortunately, some in the sports world might react differently to reports of Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts’s sexual orientation.

Welts informed several friends of his sexuality before going public, including NBA Commissioner David Stern. “What I didn’t say at the time was: I think there’s a good chance the world will find this unremarkable,” Stern told the New York Times reporter who broke the story. “I don’t know if I was confusing my thoughts with my hopes.”

According to Suns Guard Steve Nash, “Anyone who’s not ready for this needs to catch up.”

Unfortunately, some in his profession will not.

Many people consider sports an example of the way the world should work. Sports is usually a win-lose proposition: someone wins only if someone else loses. One team wins, the other goes home. Olympic athletes get silver and bronze medals, horses can place and show, but few remember the losers in championship games.

On the other hand, to instill confidence in people with developmental disabilities, every Special Olympics athlete gets a ribbon. But even that practice isn’t without critics. Some believe the spotlight should be focused entirely, and only, on winners.

Sadly, the metaphor explains the way things are now. In politics, one person wins and the rest return to their other lives. Some executives only consider themselves and their companies successful when others aren’t doing as well. That mentality is demonstrated in lists of companies and countries that inform everyone how participants are doing in the “game” of life.

For decades, the argument that men who compete in team sports at a young age are better prepared for life was used an excuse to bar women from advancement in business and politics. Then came Title IX and the growth of sports for girls and women, and that argument no longer fits. But despite gains for women in business and politics, as well as sports, there’s still work to be done.

The sports mentality prevails in other ways. Athletes are encouraged to push themselves beyond their limits, ignoring both physical injury and goals unrelated to sports. This leads to unnecessary injuries and damaged relationships and lives.

Young people who want to give up sports for another activity are often accused of not following through with commitment. Even people who want to change careers in midlife are looked upon as quitters for not reaching goals they set when they were young and knew less about themselves and real life.

Competitors are expected to ignore the body’s natural signals that indicate an activity is causing harm. That’s why so many participants suffer from what are casually termed “sports injuries.” The fact that head injuries weren’t taken seriously explains why so many pro football players suffer from such debilitating conditions as dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s.

This attitude reinforces prejudice against disabled people. We’re considered losers from the get-go, lesser beings than potential winners. And the strength-in-sports mentality spills over into the area of sexual orientation, especially among men.

Gender is usually less of an issue for women than for many males. Men are more apt to question their own sexuality when they learn another man is gay. Women rarely take the issue of another woman’s sexuality as a reflection on their own identity. Even women with religious convictions against homosexuality are usually more comfortable than men about working with or living near a member of the LGBT community.

With all this, I haven’t even mentioned the corrupting factor of money in sports, as well as life. Daily headlines in Arizona papers scream news of the Fiesta Bowl scandal, along with evidence of general corruption in the bowl game selection process. One look at the corruption and economic breakdown of the past few years, and it’s easy to understand the source of the mentality that led us to this abyss.

All this proves it’s time to choose a better metaphor to teach young people about life. Besides promoting win-win activities, society must provide more opportunities for women, disabled people, and members of all minorities to participate in the real “game” of life. We could do more than just “catch up”; we could actually enjoy more shared success for all.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Youngstown, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, May 20, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Corner Belmont Ave. and Tod Lane (near Dairy Queen).

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, May 20, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the corner of Belmont Ave. and Tod Lane (near Dairy Queen). in Youngstown, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

On a personal front: I'm getting some writing done and will post here in a day or so. Also getting set to take our three kitties, one at a time, to see the "baby" doctor over the next few days. We must always take good care of our animal companions, even if they aren't too fond of those needles. Who is?!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Immigration and poverty: Why Congress must reform our immigration laws now

Whenever I write about the need for immigration reform, someone inevitably posts the statement:

What part of “illegal” don’t you understand?

My response is another question:

What part of “poverty” don’t you understand?

It’s no accident first-world nations have serious immigration problems. Their own policies caused the problem in the first place. For centuries, European nations stole resources from their colonies, then left native populations in poverty with few resources to build a vital economy.

Historically, European nations milked considerable resources from poor countries around the world. Foreign occupiers in third-world countries forced natives to do the hardest jobs: felling trees in thick forests, farming, mining, reaping riches and shipping them to world markets. With few exceptions, profits went to European coffers.

European expatriates established privileged societies, relying on native servants for the smallest chores. They called exploited nations “colonies.” It’s no coincidence that most natives in these far-flung lands were dark-skinned.

Pale-skinned occupiers justified disreputable policies by claiming superiority based on superficial details:

● their light skin made them superior to people of color;
● Christianity was the “true religion,” the religion of “peace”;
● theirs was the “one true God”;
● European languages were easier to understand than those of native populations;
● European culture was “civilized”; native cultures were “savage.”

Occupiers controlled subject natives by:

● suppressing native languages, cultures, and religions;
● controlling native education;
● limiting native employment opportunities, pay, and benefits.

These policies doomed most native people to a life of poverty. Finally, with the dawn of the 20th century, the winds of independence--spawned on the American continent and blowing across Europe throughout the 1800s--began to infect the colonies. Native leaders marshaled their countrymen to wage decades-long struggles against colonialism.

Though most of these campaigns were eventually successful, as Mohandas Gandhi warned his fellow Indians, gaining freedom was just the first step. Overcoming poverty is a harder and longer battle. Moreover, they had to deal with anger against their departing white occupiers and traditional rivalries, such as the conflict between Hindus and Muslims.

With negative emotions clouding judgment, people at every social level had difficulty learning the high art of self-government, no easy trick to master. They had to establish an effective educational system to train down-trodden citizens for jobs they’d previously been barred from. They had to develop skills and raise capital to build businesses, small and large, to employ workers yearning to improve their economic status. And they had to build a political system that serves citizens at every social level while dealing with other countries in the international arena.

Success at self-government and building a new economy proved a more daunting task than exiling their old masters. Some countries have done better than others. India, for example, has developed thriving 21st century industries, from manufacturing electronic products to operating call centers for first-world corporations.

Though it’s one of the more successful of former European colonies, India’s economy is hampered by a huge population wallowing in abject poverty, and Hindu India has long been locked in a virtual struggle with neighboring Muslim Pakistan over the region of Kashmir. The traditionally Indian territory has a Muslim majority but a significant Hindu population.

Gaining independence doesn’t automatically confer peace or prosperity on any political entity, no matter how long they’ve enjoyed independence. That’s why inhabitants of former colonies often relocate to a country where they have a better chance of improving their economic condition. Many move to Europe, but more view America as a place of greater opportunities.

Unfortunately, U.S. immigration authorities often set higher immigration quotas for countries where citizens enjoy greater educational and economic advantages at home. That means people from poorer countries find it harder to obtain legal permission to immigrate here. Since most who “yearn to breathe free” have trouble entering the U.S. legally, many people manage to come in “under the radar.” They don’t do this to break the law but so they can feed their families.

The long-term solution would be for wealthy nations to take a proactive approach to ending poverty throughout the world, especially in countries that were historically plundered by greedy colonizers. In the short run, ending the expensive war on illegal immigration would save billions in enforcement costs, and putting everyone to work would enhance market capital and raise tax revenues.

These steps would go a long way toward ending the current economic crisis. That’s why passing humane immigration laws would be a win-win step for all concerned.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Friday Peace Vigil, Youngstown, OH, and surrounding area:

Friday, May 13, 2011
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Corner Market St. and E. Midlothian Blvd.

Ray Nakley (330-506-1999) and Ron Dull (330-518-9881) will hold their weekly Peace Vigil this Friday, May 13, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the corner of Market St. and E. Midlothian Blvd. in Youngstown, OH. They invite anyone who is interested in showing their support for ending conflict in the world to join them. Hold out positive thoughts for that!

This week: After faithfully standing vigil for peace on Casa Grande street corners every Friday through the winter and early spring, Tony Fasline is back in his Yankee hometown and standing with old friends through the summer season. He’s connected me with organizers of the year-round Youngstown, OH, vigils, so I can post notice of their events, in case any of you happen to be in that area.. Thanks to Ray Nakley, I have the schedule for the rest of the year for Youngstown vigils, so I’ll be posting them here on a regular basis.

Of course, we’ll be looking forward to Tony’s return to Casa Grande sometime in the fall. At that time, maybe there’ll be more people to join him, and possibly me now and then, as he reminds passersby that we must do more to end the war--all wars--and contribute our energies toward building a peaceful and prosperous society all over the world.

Meanwhile, let’s all send out our most positive thoughts and, for those who are believers, prayers to support and benefit all those suffering in so many parts of the world!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tony Fasline holding peace vigils for the summer season in Youngstown, OH

I’ve just received a message from Tony Fasline, who so loyally held peace vigils every Friday afternoon here in Casa Grande throughout the winter and early spring. Back in his old Youngstown, OH, home, Tony and friends have already held his first vigil there. He promises to keep me informed of their vigil schedule up there, so I can let people know what’s going on in various places around Youngstown from now till early fall. At that time, he promises to return to Arizona. During the colder months, Tony--and hopefully I and others--will be back on street corners around here. We’ll keep you up-to-date when those vigils are scheduled as well.

For now, if anyone else wants to organize similar vigils, go ahead and post them as comments in my Peace Blog or on my Facebook walls. That’s exactly the kind of thing I have these pages for.

Meanwhile, I know we all have to live in the real world, but we’ll never have a better one to live in unless we nurture the dreamers and visionaries who point the way. Yes, there’s conflict all over, but we’ll never have peace unless we understand the reasons conflict exists and find ways to solve the problems that cause the conflict. That’s why I do this work.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Aftermath of bin Laden Raid: Retire Geronimo from the Military Manual

Even as Native Americans across the country share similar feelings with other Americans over news of the demise of Osama bin Laden, they disapprove the assignment of the code name Geronimo to the military operation responsible for taking him down. It’s understandable that people who serve their country, in both military and civilian capacities, to a greater extent than any other ethnic group feel disappointment and anger at this lapse of cultural sensitivity to their feelings.

At least since World War II, the name of Geronimo has been commonly used in U.S. military action. In those days of careless racism, we heard the slogan in numerous war movies. As children in the early postwar years, we often played parachutist, yelling “Geronimo!” as we leapt off anything higher than the ground we landed on, from a chair to a tree limb. No one gave a second thought to the habit.

Of course, that was before most people in the country heard anything about the Windtalkers, the mostly Navajo soldiers who used their unique language to invent a code that couldn’t be broken by the Japanese during World War II. It was also before the days of the Second Stand at Wounded Knee in 1973, where a group of American Indian Movement members occupied the site of the last major massacre of Indians by American soldiers in 1890.

It was a time when Native American children were still sent to boarding schools where all elements of their culture were stifled. Entire families were still being forcefully moved off reservations that had been their home for decades into cities where they were encouraged to assimilate. The official government goal of the time was to destroy the last vestiges of the cultural and tribal connections that had been their strength against historic Eurocentric occupation of their traditional lands.

Now we read that as soon as the special forces had “eliminated their target,” in military speak, they sent the following coded message: Geronimo EKIA. In plain English, this means “enemy [specifically, bin Laden] killed in action.”

One wonders what code names might have been assigned to other members of al Qaeda during the operation. Sitting Bull? Osceola? In different eras of the 19th century, all were considered deadly enemies of the U.S. Army. All of them died while in U.S. custody, or in the case of Sitting Bull, under official military control.

To the native population, however, these men and others were considered great spiritual and military leaders. They were able to lead their people successfully through great difficulties, both in conflict and in peace. And in the current culture of heightened ethnic awareness, the roles and motives of these and other Indian leaders are gaining the respect of people on all sides of history.

On the positive side, a Senate Indian Affairs committee has scheduled a hearing on racial stereotyping of Native Americans for Thursday, May 5. The agenda includes discussion of the use of this type of racist language, especially in relation to official government activities. This development Is long past due. In fact, I can’t imagine what sort of arguments can be made on the side of maintaining the status quo.

I’ll be waiting to hear an announcement coming out of that committee that the name of any past or present Native American leader will be stricken immediately from the military manual and any other official government document or exercise manual. No other conclusion will be acceptable.